What to do if you're caught in a rip current

Rip currents, not to be confused with rip tides, can be deadly. Swimmers who drown off New York area beaches are often caught in rip currents, sometimes when lifeguards are not on duty.

Rip currents are currents of water flowing away from shore at surf beaches, according to the National Atmospheric and Oceanic Administration.  

"Typically, they form at breaks in sandbars, and also near structures, such as jetties and piers, as well as cliffs that jut into the water," NOAA says.

As dangerous as rip currents are, you can survive them. Often bathers who drown in rip currents could have escaped but instead fought the current and tired out.

These are NOAA's guidelines to survive a rip current:

  • Don't fight the current. It's a natural treadmill that travels an average speed of 1-2 feet per second, but has been measured as fast as 8 feet per second—faster than an Olympic swimmer.
  • Relax and float to conserve energy. Staying calm may save your life.
  • Do NOT try to swim directly into to shore. Swim parallel to the shoreline until you escape the current's pull. When free from the pull of the current, swim at an angle away from the current toward shore.
  • If you feel you can't reach shore, relax, face the shore, and call or wave for help. Remember: Wave and yell... swim parallel

RELATED: Learn more from the National Weather Service

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